In 1906 a meeting was held at the Imperial Hotel Huddersfield, where the Huddersfield & District FA and other interested parties discussed the possibility of bringing professional football to the town.
Further meetings took place over the next two years and in 1908 Huddersfield Town A.F.C. was formed with capital of £2,000, most of it provided by local wool manufacturer J. Hilton Crowther. The new club rented the Leeds Road Ground from the Huddersfield Association Ground Company and joined the North Eastern League. In the early days a tramcar was used as the dressing room and ticket office and if this wasn’t available the teams used a local pub or a tent.
For their first season Town wore a red kit which earned them the nickname of the ‘Scarlet Runners’. But by the next season they changed to blue shirts and then changed again, this time to white shirts. They finally switched to blue and white stripes in 1913 and have stuck with the same kit pretty much ever since (there have been a couple of brief plain blue periods).
Huddersfield’s first game at Leeds Road took place on 2 September 1908 when 1,000 fans watched Town beat Bradford Park Avenue 2-1.
Within two years, Town were applying to join the Football League and engaging the famous ‘football architect’ Archibald Leitch to redesign the stadium, the cost of which was estimated at £6,000. After plans for the rebuild were approved the club were accepted into the League.
The newly remodelled stadium opened in September 1911 but all was not well. Attendances were poor and the club attempted to sue Leitch as they were displeased with the work carried out. Things went from bad to worse and the club were forced into liquidation in 1912.
By the end of the First World War the club was back in action, but again found themselves in financial trouble with gates hovering around a paltry 3,000. After Leeds City were forcibly disbanded by the Football League for financial irregularities a new club, Leeds United, were formed and J Hilton Crowther tried to amalgamate the two moving them to Elland Road. This, unsurprisingly caused an outcry in Huddersfield. Fund raising efforts by locals kept the team in the town and from then on it was onwards and upwards.
As the team’s future in Huddersfield was stabilised, results took a massive upturn on the pitch. In 1920 Town were promoted to the First Division for the first time and also made their first FA Cup final. After seeing off Brentford, Newcastle United, Plymouth Argyle and Liverpool to reach the semi-final they visited Stamford Bridge twice; first to see off Bristol City 2-1 in the last four and then again for the final where they lost by the only goal to Aston Villa.
As success arrived, the fans followed. From that meagre 3,000 the ground now had to be expanded on numerous occasions to cope with the rise in attendance.
Ambrose Langley had led the club into the top flight and to the Cup final but in 1921 he was replaced by Herbert Chapman the man who completed the transformation and made Town the best team in the country.
The great team of the 1920s
Under their new boss, Town won the FA Cup in 1922, although a poor season in the league led to a number of personnel changes as Chapman tinkered with his line-up and made it ‘his’ team. The 1922-23 season saw Town finish 3rd and this was followed by a pair of first division title wins, the first on goal average from Cardiff City and the second by finishing two points clear of runners-up West Bromwich Albion.
With players like Billy Smith and skipper Clem Stephenson leading the way, Huddersfield were a major factor in changing the way the game was played. Solid defending coupled with swift, effective counter-attacking was the byword and it certainly worked as Town took the game to a new level of tactical awareness.
‘Smile A While’
Chapman left for Arsenal in 1925 but replacement Cecil Potter led the team to an amazing and unprecedented third successive title, a record since equalled but never yet bettered. This period also saw the first singing of ‘Smile A While’ the terrace anthem still sung by fans to this day.
Outside Leeds Road
Off the pitch there were also changes although, perhaps remembering the earlier financial woes, the club ensured that these were modest. In the 1920s a barrel-shaped ‘Belfast’ roof was placed over the Leeds Road End earning it the nickname the ‘Cowshed’. The East Terrace and the Dalton Bank were also expanded during this time with the East, also known as Popular Terrace, covered. In 1931 the club purchased a 1,300 capacity stand from Fleetwood Town for £170. These improvements led to capacity increasing first to 47,000 and then later again so that in 1932 a recorded 67,037 attended an FA Cup game against Arsenal although with the gates broken on the popular side this figure might have been considerably higher.
The 1937-38 season saw Huddersfield reach the FA Cup Final for the 5th and, thus far, last time in their history where they were beaten by a penalty from Preston North End’s George Mutch in the final minute of extre-time.
International action as Frank Swift saves for England against Holland
Shortly after World War 2, Leeds Road staged its first, and only full international. 32.435 fans watched Tommy Lawton score four times as England overcame Holland 8-2 with further goals from Raich Carter (2), Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney.
An aerial view
Through the post-war years Town remained in the top flight but became more used to fighting relegation than challenging for the title. A fire in the boy’s enclosure forced them to play a couple of home games at Elland Road in 1951-52 and they ended the season relegated for the first time in their existence. Undaunted, manager Andy Beattie who had been appointed in April 1952 but failed to save them from the drop, made four new signings during the summer and they bounced straight back into the top flight.
During the 1950s the club led the country in one respect. Because of a close association with the giant Philips electrical company, who had a factory in nearby Darwen, they installed the first electronic scoreboard in the country, at the Dalton Bank End terrace.
Upon their return to the top flight, Beattie led Town to a third-place finish, still their highest since WW2 but another poor season followed and Beattie offered to resign. The directors persuaded him to stay on and he brought in a new assistant, Bill Shankly.
Ray Wilson at Leeds Road
The new combination failed to bring about the desired results and Town were relegated, Beattie resigned and Shankly took over in November 1956. During his time at the helm, Shankly nurtured the talents of Denis Law, Ray Wilson and others but was unable to bring about a return to the top and he left to take over at Liverpool in 1959 with Eddie Boot replacing him.
The Denis Law Floodlights
Law was sold to Manchester City in 1961 and the £55,000 received was used to purchase what became known as the ‘Denis Law floodlights’.
It took Town until 1970 to get back into the top flight. Then a more serious decline started. A cycle of relegation followed by the sale of their best players started and failed to stop until they dropped into the 4th Division, becoming the first former 1st Division champions to drop down to the fourth tier.
The club finally started to recover in 1978 when Mick Buxton was appointed as manager. The former Physio managed to lift Town back up to the second division but there the revival ended and Buxton was fired with the team hovering near the relegation zone.
During this period Stadium capacity was gradually reduced due to increased safety regulations and restrictions. Capacity fell from 52,000 to 31,000 to finally, 16,000. The Cowshed was deemed unfit and closed for two years and in time the ground became a shadow of its former self.
Eventually with a move to the new Galpharm Stadium, which they would share with the town’s rugby club (who had been sharing Leeds Road) agreed, Town played their 1554th and final game at Leeds Road on 30 April 1994. A crowd of 16,195 turning up to see a 2-1 defeat by Blackpool.
Now a look at the League sees the Terriers back in the top division,regularly packing out their new stadium as they host the country’s giants.
Leeds Road certainly had its day. It served Town well during those glory years but it really was time for a new stadium with top-class facilities, and that’s what Huddersfield fans have now. But many will look back on those good – and bad – times at their old home and ‘Smile A While’.